Saturday Quiz – May 23, 2015

Welcome to the Billy Blog Saturday Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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    Friday lay day – Greek pension myths

    This is my Friday lay day blog where brevity is the aim. There was an article in the UK Guardian yesterday (May 21, 2015) – Fight to save the Greek pension takes centre stage in Brussels and Athens – which described the personal consequences of the pernicious austerity for recipients of state pensions in Greece. The State Pension system is one of the beachheads in the current struggle between Syriza and the Troika. The latter want further cuts to the entitlements provided to retirees as part of their demolition of living standards in Greece. The former are resisting but are on the path to oblivion given they will not be able to honour their electoral mandate to introduce stimulus policies while remaining in the Eurozone. But I was triggered to examine the latest data on pensions given the popular perception that Greeks get life too easy.
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      Posted in Eurozone, Friday | 9 Comments

      Japan – signs of growth but grey clouds remain

      The Wall Street Journal reported late yesterday (May 20, 2015) that – Japan’s First-Quarter GDP Growth Is Fastest in a Year. This follows the release of the latest national accounts data from the Japanese Ministry of Finance. The WSJ was like many media commentators – quick to put the best spin on the data that they could. They converted the 0.6 per cent quarterly growth figure for March 2015 into a 2.4 per cent annualised figure and pronounced a consumer led recovery. The facts tell us a different story. The biggest contributor to growth in the March-quarter was unsold inventories. Whether this is a sign of lagging sales and overly confident producers, who won’t remain in that state for long, or expectations of strengthening consumer demand, remains to be seen. On the face of it, with real wages continuing to fall and consumer expectations weak, things may not be as rosy as the “2.4 per cent annualised growth” result would suggest.
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        Neo-liberal dynamics restored after the shock of the GFC

        There was an article in Bloomberg Op Ed yesterday (May 19, 2015) – U.S. Workers Brought the ‘Great Reset’ on Themselves – which argues that those who bemoan the falling standards of living for workers in terms of job stability, real wages growth etc have only themselves to blame because as workers they demand conditions that they are not prepared to sustain as consumers and taxpayers (higher prices, higher taxes). It is an extraordinary argument not because there are not elements of truth in it, but, rather, because it ignores other realities such as the rising income inequalities and the on-going redistribution of national income to profits. It also tallies with what is going on in Australia at present, which is a specific form of the on-going attack on real standards of living for workers and their families through poorly crafted government policy. The policy design reflects ideology rather than any appreciation of what is required to maintain living standards.
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          Posted in Central banking, Economics | 19 Comments

          Time for progressives to adopt more direct actions

          Australia is about to walk the plank and sign up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership even though much of the contents will not be publicly disclosed. Last week, the US President unsuccessfully tried to get US Senate approval to fast track the authority to commit America to the TPP. His failure in that regard will not stop the process. It appears that if the TPP is introduced corporate control of government discretionary policy through the so-called “investor-to-state dispute settlement” clauses will be much enhanced. This is not an arrangement to make trade fairer and to enhance the well-being of poorer nations or to expand the choice of richer nations. The TPP builds on the punitive measures in various World Trade Organisation agreements, which give multinational corporations substantial legal bite to resist regulatory environments set up by democratically elected governments and to punish nations that resist the dictates of international finance capital. No government in its right mind would sign up to these agreements on behalf of their nations. I will have more to say about the TPP when we know more. But all of this bears on the question of who influences public policy and if we don’t like it what can we do about it. That is the topic of this blog.
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            Posted in Economics | 11 Comments

            Demand and supply interdependence – stimulus wins, austerity fails

            My Phd research, was in part, exposing the myths in conventional or mainstream economics arguments that claim that structural imbalances in the labour market arise independently of the economic cycle and hence, aggregate spending. The mainstream used this assertion to draw the conclusion that government policy could little to bring unemployment down when mass unemployment was largely ‘structural’ in nature. Instead, they proposed that supply-side remedies were necesary, which included labour market deregulation (abandoning employment protection etc), minimum wage and income support cuts, and eroding the influence of trade unions. At the time, the econometric work I undertook showed that so-called structural imbalances were highly sensitive to the economic cycle – that is, the supply-side of the economy was not independent of the demand-side (the independence being an article of faith of mainstream analysis) and that supply imbalances (for example, skill mismatches) rather quickly disappeared when the economy operated at higher pressure. In other words, government fiscal policy was an effective way of not only reducing unemployment to some irreducible minimum but, in doing so, it increased the effectiveness of the labour force (via skill upgrading, higher participation rates etc) – that is, cleared away the so-called structural imbalances. A relatively recent paper from researchers at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington – Aggregate Supply in the United States: Recent Developments and Implications for the Conduct of Monetary Policy – finds new US evidence to support the supply-dependence on demand conditions. It is a case of stimulus wins whereas austerity fails.
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              Posted in Economics, Eurozone, US economy | 19 Comments

              Saturday Quiz – May 16, 2015 – answers and discussion

              Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you understand the reasoning behind the answers. If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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                Posted in Saturday quiz | 5 Comments

                Eurozone Dystopia – Groupthink and Denial on a Grand Scale – now published

                Edward Elgar, announced last night (Oz time) that my new book – Eurozone Dystopia – Groupthink and Denial on a Grand Scale – is now published and available for sale. Here are some details. I am sorry to interrupt the Saturday Quiz deliberations.
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                  Posted in Euro book | 3 Comments

                  Saturday Quiz – May 16, 2015

                  Welcome to the Billy Blog Saturday Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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                    Posted in Saturday quiz | 2 Comments

                    Friday lay day – Greece back in recession but austerity works doesn’t it?

                    Its the Friday lay day blog and here are some snippets from the week. The Hellenic Statistical Authority (EL.STAT) released the latest – Quarterly National Accounts ( 1st Quarter 2015 ) – on May 13, 2015. After all the claims that austerity was working and the Greek economy was growing again, we now learn that Greece is back in recession, having recorded two successive quarters of negative real GDP growth. Whatever way one spins it, the policy framework employed by the Eurozone is a failure. The national accounts data released by Eurostat which coincided with the Greek release – GDP up by 0.4% in the euro area and the EU28 – also shows that the German economy slowed considerably in the first-quarter 2015 and Finland, one of the fiercest supporters of austerity entered official recession. The Finnish response was they had to cut public spending harder because they would be in breach of the Stability and Growth Pact rules relating to size of the deficit and the volume outstanding public debt. These nations are so caught up in neo-liberal Groupthink that they cannot see how ridiculous their policies and supporting dialogue have become.
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                      Posted in Eurozone, Friday | 8 Comments